Wisconsin Republican lawmakers, deeming Colin Kaepernick too controversial to honor during Black History Month, blocked a proposed resolution until his name was removed from it on Tuesday.
Instead, Republican members of the Assembly drafted their own resolution, one that did not contain the name of Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who ignited a national controversy that drew in President Trump by taking a knee during the national anthem to raise awareness of police brutality and social injustice. The lawmakers added the names of Mandela Barnes, the state’s first black lieutenant governor, and Vel Phillips, the state’s first black secretary of state.
One of the authors of the resolution called Kaepernick’s removal “a textbook example of white privilege” and “a slap in the face.” Rep. David Crowley (D-Milwaukee) noted that to get the resolution passed, “I had to get the blessing of all of my white counterparts,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Kaepernick has previously drawn the vocal support of one of Wisconsin’s most prominent residents, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, for his demonstrations, which began in the summer of 2016. Other players took up the cause the following season and the issue became a full-blown controversy when Trump called for owners to suspend or fire any “son of a b----” who didn’t stand for the anthem. By the 2017 season, Kaepernick was out of the league, further outraging his supporters..
Kaepernick, who was born in Milwaukee, was one of more than two dozen prominent black Americans, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, included in the black lawmakers’ resolution. Kaepernick was included partly because of his $25,000 donation to Milwaukee’s Urban Underground, a nonprofit that says it tries to “promote a culture of excellence, a commitment to justice, and a pursuit of leadership that is courageous, inclusive, and accountable.”
But the Assembly’s Republican Speaker said that Kaepernick was too polarizing to include.
“I think it’s important to recognize the contributions of literally thousands and thousands of African Americans to our state’s history but also trying to find people who, again, bring us together. Not look at people who draw some sort of vitriol from either side,” Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said.
Via a 61-34 party-line vote, Republicans in the Assembly opted to remove Kaepernick’s name from the resolution, and Democrats then faced the choice of abandoning their proposal or proceeding without Kaepernick. That left Crowley saying that he has “heartburn” over the resolution, which goes to the Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday.
“It’s outrageous that some Republicans feel they can censor African American legislators in this way,” Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), who co-wrote the resolution, said. “So while we celebrate the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, evidently the Republicans don’t think the First Amendment rights should be afforded to African Americans.”
The controversy over Kaepernick largely died down last season, when Nike even made him the focus of a prominent ad campaign. “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” he said in the campaign.
Still, Kaepernick remains unsigned, which has angered both his supporters and many NFL players.
“I think [Kaepernick] should be on a roster right now,” Rodgers told ESPN. “I think because of his protests, he’s not.”
Rodgers did not take a knee during the anthem, but said he was “100 percent supportive” of players who did so. “I think the best way I can say this is: I don’t understand what it’s like to be in that situation,” he said. “What it is to be pulled over, or profiled, or any number of issues that have happened, that Colin was referencing — or any of my teammates have talked to me about . . . But I know it’s a real thing my black teammates have to deal with.”
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